|Publication number||US5239736 A|
|Application number||US 07/790,815|
|Publication date||Aug 31, 1993|
|Filing date||Nov 12, 1991|
|Priority date||Nov 12, 1991|
|Also published as||CA2085760A1, EP0602261A1|
|Publication number||07790815, 790815, US 5239736 A, US 5239736A, US-A-5239736, US5239736 A, US5239736A|
|Inventors||John W. Sliwa, Jr., Sevig Ayter, John P. Mohr, III|
|Original Assignee||Acuson Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (6), Referenced by (33), Classifications (14), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This invention relates to the manufacture of ultrasound transducers and more particularly to the fabrication of piezoelectric transducer components of very fine pitch. Ultrasound devices, such as those employed in the medical ultrasound imaging market, typically employ piezoelectric ceramic materials such as lead-zirconate-titanate (PZT) to both emit and receive ultrasound waves. For reasons of formability and improved electroacoustic performance, it can be beneficial to employ a composite piezoelectric material rather than a monolithic slab of PZT. Composites typically consist of individual small pieces of PZT distributed within and isolated by a supporting epoxy or other polymeric plastic matrix material. The pieces of PZT usually consist of small strips or posts embedded in the passive pliable and acoustically lossy host matrix material.
In the case of embedded strips of piezoelectric material, the composite is referred to as "one-dimensional" and each embedded strip can be as much as a few acoustic wavelengths wide. However, the array transducers used in medical ultrasound applications require piezoelectric strips, posts or rods of aspect ratio (width to height) lower than 0.7. The piezoelements of such medical transducers oftentimes must be no wider than this to achieve acceptable sector, linear or vector type phased array transducer performance. Frequently one has to resort to the technique of subdicing the elements such that each element subpiece or subelement is no wider than the above requirement for the aspect ratio. One way to make such a device is to first "subdice" all the subelements on a fine pitch and then electrically gang two, three or even four or more of said subelements to form the macroscopic transducer elements which are on a coarser pitch. A two-dimensional piezoelectric device is formed by dicing or cutting a subelement in two orthogonal directions to form posts or rods rather than strips as formed by dicing in one direction only.
A common and convenient method for making a one-dimensional composite is to start with a monolithic slab of piezoelectric material and, using a dicing saw, cut slots, trenches or gaps therein. After cutting, the slots, trenches or gaps may be back-filled with polymeric matrix material such as an epoxy. A two-dimensional composite can be made by also cutting orthogonal slots. In this bidirectional material, one may choose to cut and fill each direction sequentially for ease of manufacture. After filling the slots, the exposed flat surfaces of the composite structure are ground and lapped, as necessary, and then metalized or electroded and repoled, if necessary. The resulting structure essentially comprises a semiflexible mat consisting of strips, posts or rods of piezoelectric material laterally encased by polymeric matrix material such as epoxy. The isolated strips, posts or rods (which are typically made of PZT) have their opposite exposed edges or ends in contact with the metalized or electroded surfaces.
Composite piezoelectric materials have been shaped and formed to achieve the mechanical focussing of ultrasound waves. Composites have also been made for use in special applications to provide improved electroacoustic characteristics compared to those obtainable with monolithic piezomaterial. Examples of such applications include annular arrays and mechanically scanned low-mass devices commonly employed in the medical ultrasound field.
To satisfy the need for higher and higher frequency transducers, it is necessary to find ways to make composites having a very fine pitch between adjacent PZT strips or posts. This is based upon the fact that the thickness must decrease as the operational ultrasonic wavelength decreases and the pitch should also decrease in order to satisfy the above-mentioned aspect ratio criterion.
At the present time, the dicing technology utilizes diamond-abrasive thin-foil blades which rotate at 30,000-60,000 RPM. However, the use of such blades has limitations with respect to cutting increasingly narrow trenches or kerfs at constant or even increasing depths which is necessary to produce finer pitch composites. Blades of 15 microns and less thickness are hard to work with and difficult to obtain. In addition such blades simply become mechanically unstable when used to cut very thin slots at great depths. In addition, as the ratio of cut depth/blade thickness (and kerf width) increases, the blade life is shortened, the kerf taper becomes unacceptable and the frequency of catastrophic blade failure increases. Obviously, if dicing is undertaken at a very fine pitch and the composite is of large macroscopic size, it is likely that a blade failure in the midst of dicing will ruin that part as a whole. A substantial value-added which has been invested to the point of failure is thereby lost to scrap. Thus, the difficulty of achieving narrower kerfs, or slots, limits or prohibits the manufacture of the finer pitch composites with high yield.
The principal object of this invention is to provide a better method for fabricating and manufacturing "dice and fill" composites for use in ultrasonic transducers, particularly those having a very fine pitch, and an even closer spacing of PZT elements as needed for high frequency devices.
A further object is to provide an improved methodology which allows the manufacture of acoustic devices with PZT elements having different and/or complementary properties, an advantage not possible with monolithic structures.
The key innovation of this invention is to form two mating slabs or pieces of diced piezoelectric ceramic using a conventional dicing blade or laser cutting technique. The two slabs are each diced to provide relatively wide slots or kerfs on a common pitch or spacing. The diced surface of each slab is then wetted with epoxy such that the slots or kerfs fill up partially or fully. The two diced surfaces are then brought together in aligned face-to-face relation such that the strips or posts of one are received within the slots of the other and, thus, interdigitate to form a composite slab having strips or posts with half the pitch dimension and twice the density of the two starting slabs. Depending on the application, the epoxy can completely fill the space between the strips or posts, or it can be applied only to portions of said slabs, resulting in a mostly "air filled" composite. The epoxy is then cured and the interdigitated and cured slabs are ground, lapped down in the conventional manner and prepared for metallization and repoling, if necessary.
The invention disclosed herein allows one to produce composite PZT acoustic devices which have kerf widths which can be reduced to near zero dimension and subelement pitches which are substantially tighter than is possible using the same tools and the aforementioned monolithic approach. The method allows one to employ relatively wide cuts made with laterally stiff and thick blades and yet produce extremely fine-pitched composites.
In the drawings forming a part of this application and in which like parts are identified by like reference numerals throughout the same,
FIG. 1 is a vertical section of a pair of piezoelectric slabs diced and interdigitated in accordance with the preferred embodiment of invention; and
FIG. 2 is a similar section of the interdigitated slabs of FIG. 1 depicting the appearance after grinding and lapping processes have been executed on the top and bottom surfaces and said surfaces have been metalized or electroded.
FIG. 1 shows a pair of slabs 10 and 11, each formed of piezoelectric material in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the invention. Each slab is complementary to the other and, as shown, has been diced or cut to form kerfs or slots 12 of a width K and a depth D. Slots 12 define therebetween a plurality of posts or strips 13 of a width W. As shown, posts 13 of one slab interdigitate with the posts of the other slab, leaving gaps 14 between the posts of one slab and the adjacent post of the other slab. This arrangement allows the transducer piezocomposites to be formed with multiple gaps 14 which can be much narrower than is possible utilizing conventional manufacturing techniques.
It may be desirable to implement the posts or strips such that they have slightly tilted sidewalls and are not perfectly rectangular in section. This eases the process of interdigitation in that gaps 14 are not established until the mating slabs are fully interdigitated. Such post or strip tapering also allows for an additional acoustic design degree of freedom. It also may be desirable acoustically to have a thickness taper present in slabs 10 and/or 11 for the purpose of manipulating the acoustic spectrum.
The two slabs 10 and 11 may be electrically prepoled in the direction or sense 15 as is commonly the practice before dicing. However, poling may also take place after dicing so long as the appropriate electrodes are available and accessible.
For purposes of simplifying FIGS. 1 and 2, we have shown slabs 10 and 11 being cut to a depth D--less than the slab thickness. It is an option to mount slabs 10 and 11 on individual carrier plates which in turn allow one to have D larger than the slab thickness. It is also an option to have slabs 10 and/or 11 themselves have additional acoustic layers such as acoustic matching layers laminated to them before such cutting and interdigitation. In that manner, one gets a component acoustically matched to what it ultimately needs to couple into.
The gaps 14 may be filled with a polymeric material, as is customary and standard practice in the manufacture of composite transducers, or they may be left, at least in part, unfilled. The choice of whether to use a gap-filling material is largely a matter of trade-offs. The use of gap-filling material results in better structural integrity but poorer interelement acoustic isolation. The gap-filling material may contain microspheres, as for example polystyrene or other plastic spheres, which are introduced in sufficient concentration and of the appropriate size to force all the gaps to have the same dimension. However, the use of too many microspheres may increase acoustic crosstalk and make interdigitation more difficult. It is contemplated that the size or diameter of the microspheres should be selected to be of the same order of magnitude as the size of the desired gaps 14. If the microspheres have resiliency or give, as is the usual case of polymeric spheres, it is beneficial to purposefully design a slight mechanical interference between the microspheres and adjacent posts to insure that said spheres force the posts to the right uniform spacing.
There are essentially three choices for the method of interdigitation and gap filling. One method is to dry-assemble the slabs 10 and 11 and then introduce the gap filling material. A second method is to prewet the slabs and/or their slots with such filler matrix material and forcibly displace the excess amount as the two slabs are brought together and the strips or posts of one are interdigitated with the strips or posts of the other. A third process for filling the gaps is a variation on the second wherein the slabs are prewetted, interdigitated and then pull themselves together through capillary forces and/or atmospheric forces induced by a controlled withdrawal of excess filler material. The microspheres may, if used, either be present in the epoxy or polymer matrix material when it is used or may alternatively be placed in the kerfs without the epoxy and said epoxy added afterwards.
A fourth possible approach is to not completely fill the gaps or to fill them temporarily, removing some or all of the filler using wet or dry etching processes, dissolution or sublimation in order to achieve air gaps to maximize interelement acoustic isolation.
It is to be understood in FIG. 1 that the portions of the slabs 10 and 11 extending below the phantom line 16 and above the phantom line 17 are ground or lapped away in further processing of the manufacturing cycle. The remaining central or intermediate portions between phantom lines 16 and 17, indicated by the double arrowhead line 18, then constitutes a stand-alone composite mat consisting of isolated posts or strips made of piezoelectric material encased, or laterally surrounded, by a mat of polymeric material. The exposed end-surfaces of the posts are then metalized in order to form the needed electrodes.
The removal of gap filling polymer, if partial airgaps are desired, is most easily and conveniently achieved after removal of the piezoelectric material above and below phantom lines 16 and 17, respectively.
FIG. 2 illustrates the final PZT composite component for use in a transducer after the removal of the excess piezoelectric material on the opposite sides of the interdigitated subassembly of FIG. 1. As shown, the surfaces are metalized or coated with an electrically conductive layer 19. This is done using conventional sputtering, evaporation or other thick film deposition processes.
Although a preferred embodiment of the invention has been illustrated and described, various modifications and changes may be resorted to without departing from the spirit of the invention or the scope of the appended claims, and each of such modifications and changes is contemplated.
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|U.S. Classification||29/25.35, 29/412, 29/418|
|International Classification||B06B1/06, H01L41/22, H04R17/08|
|Cooperative Classification||B06B1/06, Y10T29/49799, H01L41/37, Y10T29/49789, Y10T29/42, H04R17/08|
|European Classification||H01L41/37, B06B1/06|
|Nov 12, 1991||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: ACUSON CORPORATION A CORPORATION OF DELAWARE
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST.;ASSIGNORS:SLIWA, JOHN W., JR.;AYTER, SEVIG;MOHR, JOHN P., JR.;REEL/FRAME:005927/0279
Effective date: 19911008
|Sep 27, 1996||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Jan 11, 2001||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8
|Jan 14, 2005||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 12
|Aug 19, 2010||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: SIEMENS MEDICAL SOLUTIONS USA, INC., PENNSYLVANIA
Free format text: MERGER AND CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNORS:ACUSON CORPORATION;ACUSON LLC;ACUSON CORPORATION;SIGNING DATES FROM 20021218 TO 20050926;REEL/FRAME:024900/0735